It was in a client meeting last week that someone mentioned how much they were looking forward to the Olympics this summer.
For about forty-five seconds, the enthusiasm was infectious, and I was along for the ride. Huh, I thought, maybe he’s on to something. Maybe we should all be excited about the opportunity we’ll have to prove to the world just how brilliant London is; how well we do massive spectacles like this; and what great things it’ll do for our image abroad and British tourism in the years to come, and wonderful things for areas of London that were long overdue some serious investment.
And then sense got the better of me.
Because, in true gloomy Brit style, always more Eeyore than Tigger, I’m not really looking forward to it in the slightest.
I understand why the Olympics one of those things politicians get excited about, and I can see that from a PR perspective, a well-executed Games will do good things for the reputation of “brand Britain” abroad (although let’s not over-egg the pudding, eh? It’s not the one Grand Gesture that will persuade people from far and wide to open their arms and wallets to our little island, thus rescuing us from our desperate economic and political malaise). But, from the perspective of a person already living here and trying to go about their daily business, I just can’t get on board.
I know it’s de rigeur to get a bit grumbly about the Games, and that maybe we should just lighten up. You never know, The Mother’s voice rings in my ears, you might even enjoy it if you give yourself half a chance. And I’m happy to be proved wrong. But I just don’t think I will be.
I’m not looking forward to an additional 6 million people in the city. If you’ve ever tried to walk up Oxford Street on a Saturday (although why would you?), or get a table at Senzala for brunch, you’ll know it’s quite busy enough as it is already, thank you: we’re going to be hard-pressed to find room for all the extras.
I don’t fancy the extra 20 million anticipated spectator journeys. I use the Northern Line to get to work. There’s already less free space per carriage than inside the average gnat’s pants. More people are categorically Not What’s Needed. I don’t fancy the fact that, on the miraculous occasion that I do squeeze myself onto a sweaty, overstuffed tube in time for work, I’ll almost certainly be told that the station is about to be evacuated due to someone’s errant Pret wrapper left under a bench.
I don’t fancy the millions of extra people standing on the left of escalators; clogging up Oyster card barriers by standing too close before swiping; or not knowing which way to look before they cross a road. Nor do I relish the collective stupidity of people in large groups, which will inevitably manifest itself in impossible-to-walk-round multi-person blockages in the middle of pavements.
I don’t fancy teenage tourists riding Boris bikes along the pavement. I don’t fancy the inevitable media Gameswash, with other news nowhere to be found. I don’t fancy vast queues and irritated people getting tetchy with inevitable stop-and-searches happening on every second street corner. Or the fact that everything – such notoriously good value as it is anyway – will be put up by at least 50% by greedy businesses attempting to squeeze every last drop out of the tourist dollar.
Or the fact that, by simply writing all these thoughts down, I may be in contravention of some particularly draconian laws on branding and whisked away by goons from the Ministry of Truth.
Still, if there is a silver lining (and I’m not convinced there is, but let’s clutch at a straw), at least we know that there are six weeks this summer that will royally piss off the French.